Pull up your pants and take some lessons— today’s snowboarding is for everyone.
By Scott Flanders
He puts down the game controller that has left his thumb sore from spinning tricks on Tony Hawk’s “Pro Skater.” He throws on his baggiest snow pants, and gasses up with a handful of cereal and a Red Bull. He loads up some Slayer in his Walkman, grabs his board (littered with stickers), and tries not to trip over any skateboards or hungover bodies lying on the floor. After loading up his mid-’80s van (also littered with stickers) for the trip up the canyon to the resort, he thinks about his goal for the day—to finally pull that 1080 and then see how many skiers he can take out in a single run.
Forget all that. The days of stereotyping snowboarders have finally subsided (for the most part). Gone are the notions that snowboarding will be just a fad and will never make it into the mainstream snow scene to be accepted by the majority of society. It has now evolved into a sport that can serve the competitive as well as the recreational needs of just about anyone.
Of course, the sport is still full of diehard skateboarders and surfers who got into snowboarding as another form of personal expression when it was raining in the city or the ocean was flat. However, head out to the slopes nowadays and you’ll see a boarding clientele that runs the gamut—from kids under 10 who skipped the whole learn-to-ski thing and went straight to riding, to men and women over 50 who have seen others having too much fun on boards to not at least try it, to disabled people confined to wheelchairs when not on the hill.
“Right now, there is so much diversity in snowboarding,” said U.S. Snowboard Team rider and Park City resident Ricky Bower. “You didn’t see that when I started back in the late ’80s. It has definitely expanded to become an accepted sport all over the globe.”
Bower, the 1999 world halfpipe champion, started snowboarding in 1988, giving up both alpine and cross-country ski racing. He has added to today’s diversity in the sport by teaching both his parents to ride as well.
It has been amazing to watch the evolution of snowboarding since its birth back in 1965 when Michigan’s Sherman Poppen wanted something new for his daughters to do during the winter. He fastened two skis together, put a rope on the front to hang onto for stability, and watched as the neighborhood kids quickly took a liking to his new “toy.” His wife dubbed the contraption a Snurfer, combining the words snow and surf.
The Snurfer was marketed and sold, and one of the buyers was New York businessman Jake Burton Carpenter. Burton developed a vision, quit his city job and moved to rural Vermont to start the world’s first snowboard factory. Through the years, Burton advanced snowboarding by adding bindings to the boards, improving how the boards were made and lobbying resorts to allow riders on their lifts. Today, Burton remains a leader and an innovator in the sport.
Due to the progression of snowboarding through the years, it has become incredibly easy and non-threatening for people from all walks of life to get involved. By the early ’90s, most resorts in the United States were welcoming snowboarders on their slopes, and the rule of having to pass an on-hill competency test before being allowed on the lifts was no longer in practice. Ski schools have added snowboard programs for all levels of riders. The quality of snowboard instructors and the equipment has drastically improved, and today, resorts actually cater to snowboarders by building halfpipes and parks.
If you’re just starting out, however, forget about the pipes and parks for a bit. The two key words for anyone looking to get into recreational snowboarding are LESSONS and WILLPOWER.
Due to the excellent learning programs in place at most resorts, it’s no longer necessary to teach yourself to ride. Fork out the cash for a couple of lessons—it’s well worth it. The instructors will set you up with the correct equipment for your level, type of riding, body and foot size. If you don’t have the right board, boots and bindings, you’re not going to have the optimal experience. Second, the instructors have all been through the learning experience themselves. They are skilled at recognizing how easily (or not so easily) you are going to pick up the sport, and are able to adjust their teaching methods to fit you best.
Are you going to be getting face shots in chest-deep powder through the trees after two lessons? The answer is no—you have to have some willpower to stick with it.
Will you be sore in various areas of your body after two lessons? The answer is yes—you have to have some willpower to stick with it.
After a couple of lessons, you should have the basics down. Most people are hooked after learning to link their first turns. It’s the same feeling of accomplishment you had when you learned to stay upright after taking the training wheels off your bike, or when you finally stood up on your surfboard. One great quality of snowboarding is that the improvement comes fast after nailing the basics. Within a couple weeks, most beginners are ripping down the slopes and learning new things every day.
“It’s so much easier now to get into snowboarding,” said Colorado resident Zach Horwitz, also a member of the U.S. Snowboard Team. “I started out back in the mid-’80s riding a skateboard deck down my school’s hill in upstate New York. Then I progressed to basically a piece of wood with metal rudders on it. Luckily, you no longer have to rely on those things with the advancement in equipment.”
There’s no doubt that you’ll take some spills during your lessons. You may end up with some minor bumps and bruises, but you have to get over it and go back again for more. Before lessons were offered, teaching yourself to snowboard was more painful than watching Dennis Miller try to theorize about football on Monday nights, so you’ve got it good nowadays. A common mistake for beginners is to quit after their first day on the hill because it hurts too much. Have some willpower to stick with it, and the rewards later on will make you worship the same snow that banged you up just days before.
The state of Utah has a lot to offer—the best snow, outstanding terrain and plenty of resorts that cater to snowboarding and riders. Take advantage of it. Get out there and try something new. Who knows, you may find yourself on a chair lift with an Olympic snowboarder this season or next, and you can talk shop—or discuss your favorite Slayer tune. i
Ski Touring With Powder Hounds
By Christopher Smart
The snow fell in big, fluffy flakes, creating the impression that the world was in slow motion. Kona was up ahead, wagging his big red tail, scouting for squirrels and porcupines. But Rose stuck close by, sometimes sneaking a free ride, her paws on the backs of my skis. We were on a weekend adventure, trying to become lost in a gentle snowfall up in the mountains somewhere.
The floating flakes fell and fell, and skiing through them was like swimming through a school of fish as we made our way up through the pine forest. Kicking and gliding, kicking and gliding, I could swear I heard music. But when we stopped to listen more carefully, there was only quiet. Rose cocked her head, perhaps wondering, too, where the music had gone. Or maybe she was just listening to the silence.
Kona was waiting on his haunches with an impatient look. Hurry up, his expression seemed to say, we’re on an adventure and there isn’t any time to lose.
Up through the mysterious moving ether defined by the snowflakes, we could see the outline of tall trees and mountains, as if in silhouette. On a weekend, if you are lucky, you can redefine your world in terms of a ski trail through tall pines below big mountains.
Kona bounded from tree to tree, staring up the tall trunks and beckoning the squirrels to come down and show their cowardly faces. Or maybe the squirrels had gone subterranean. Kona shoved his head into the deep snow, sniffing about in the light powder. Rose reckoned he was on to something. Together they sniffed through the deep white stuff—two headless dogs wagging fluffy red and yellow tails in the snowstorm.
Up through the pines and into a stand of bare aspen we traveled. There was no time—it had simply ceased to exist or maybe we had been hypnotized by the big feathery flakes. There were only trees, mountains, floating flakes and dogs. And squirrels, Kona insisted. Just us and the mountain.
At some point, the going got steep and that beautiful quiet was broken by our panting. Up and up we went, through the white, gliding school of snowflakes. Sweating, I took off my jacket and pushed up my sleeves and watched as the snowflakes melted, one by one, on my arm. Climbing and breathing, climbing and breathing. Things seemed so uncomplicated, climbing and breathing.
And there we were at last, on the top of the ridge. Everything was gray and white about us, and definitions had changed—the world, or most of it, was now below us.
There were things to do: scrape wax off the skis, put the jacket on, pull the goggles out of the backpack, have a bite of chocolate and drink of juice. Kona and Rose took great interest in these things, sniffing in the backpack, wondering perhaps where their goggles and dog biscuits were hiding.
Where do all these snowflakes come from, I asked? The dogs wanted to think that one over before answering. And, of course, Rose wanted to get all the ice balls out from between her toes before we skied down.
Finally ready, it was time to remember how to do a telemark turn. It’s important not to think about it too much. Just do it. Left turn, right turn—don’t try too hard. Left, right, the snow bellowed up. That’s it—gliding left, gliding right, left and right.
At the bottom of the slope, I looked back up the mountainside. Through the snowflakes, I could see two golden retrievers porpoising down through the deep powder. Little faces emerged from the snow with a bound, then they were out of it, arching like a fish and then disappearing again into the depths, bounding down, in and out—porpoising down the mountain like deep powder skiers, like deep powder hounds. Good dogs!
Perhaps the best part of a good ski tour is when you kick off your boots in front of the fireplace and sit back with warm tea, dogs curled up at your feet, and ruminate on what a great skier you are and what a great day it has been. Sitting there with your powder hounds, you might think you and they can go on doing that sort of thing forever. But somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that won’t be possible. No matter, you might say to yourself, no one can ever take this day away from us. i
Winter Dining: The Adventure
By Jill Adler
The subzero snow crunched under the glide of my borrowed cross-country gear. As I felt the cold air in my runny nose, I pretended not to consider the return trip. Tonight was about romance and winter and all that atmospheric stuff. Tonight was a ski date to the Solitude Yurt. I wasn’t about to let my little-princess mentality rear its ugly head. She checks in when the temps drop or the hunger buzzes. I had both happening.
Less than a half-mile of flat skiing in the winter night, we arrived to the warmth of fine wine, an open grill and chipper attitudes. Our group of 10 strangers met at the Solitude Nordic Center. Gosh, my date was cute. I had difficulty paying attention to instructions on fitting gear, on carrying wine or letting the guides do that for us, how long we would be there or the tales of past visitors to the Mongolian-style shelter. His green eyes sparkled at me. We were having our first adventure together—one filled with romance at that—and my nose was runny.
Once fitted with our cross-country gear, our guide/waiter’s headlamp escorted us along an easy groomed trail through the wintry woods. Excited voices and deeper breathing broke the night’s silence. A small hut of wood and canvas glowed in the darkness ahead. Surrounded by aspen trees, between Brighton and Solitude ski resorts, we stood to listen as our guide described the history of traditional yurts and nomadic travel.
Inside, there was nothing nomadic about the ambiance and food. Linen tablecloths, crystal, china and silver were set for the five-course meal awaiting us. We shared the table with a couple from Houston. The jocular elderly man was a lawyer; his wife a marketing director. We told raunchy jokes over filet of broiled salmon, braised lamb shank Florentine and Chateau Briand. Following the main course, coffee was served as we nibbled on Linzer torte with creme anglaise. My date tipped his fork to my lips. His eyes still sparkled. It was like a private dinner party inside this yurt. I didn’t want to leave, but slowly we rolled out the door and onto our ski gear. After two bottles of wine, the trail felt more rolling than flat. I toppled twice in a heap of smiles and laughs. He gently righted me. We glided through the trees immersed in the magical winter world of forests, icicles and snowflakes.
Back at the Nordic Center, we returned the gear and motored home. My date kissed me gently goodbye, his eyes smiling. He said he would call. He didn’t.
But so what? I got a free meal and an incredible outdoor experience. Since that date, I’ve been on the lookout for everything unique in recreational dining. Park City Yurts at the Canyons resort won’t ask you to ski to eat, but you will ride a snowcat-drawn sleigh to 8,000 feet for a classic six-course meal.
One of my most fun evenings was the full-moon dinner and night skiing at Snowbird. We dined at the Mid-Gad Restaurant, then followed a lane of flares over a perfectly groomed slope in the darkness to the Gad parking lot. Another time, I bundled with the honey-of-the-month in a horse-drawn sleigh for a 30-minute ride around The Homestead in Midway. We culminated the evening with fine dining in the elegant Simon’s restaurant at the resort hotel.
All you need to enjoy these wonderful evenings is a little bit of cash, warm clothes (blankets are provided), and a keen sense of adventure. Recreational dining puts you in touch with nature. You can hear the wind, feel the winter, be part of the outdoors without freezing, and gaze into beautiful eyes sparkling in the firelight.
The Yurt @ Solitude: $80, 800-748-4SKI (4754) or 801-536-5709
Park City Yurts at The Canyons: A spectacular snowcat-pulled sleigh ride to 8,000 feet, guide service and gourmet meal. 435-615-YURT (9878); email@example.com.
Homestead Resort in Midway: 30-minute sleigh ride with lavish five-course meal, $35 (adults), $19 (kids). 800-327-7220.
Hi Ute Ranch: Russian cutter-sleigh ride and barbecue dinners for groups by pre-arrangement. Kimball Junction, near Park City. 435-649-9527.
Snowed-Inn Sleigh Company: Meets at Park City Mountain Resort for a 20-minute ride, with cowboy singer serenade, to a cabin for a five-course dinner. Adults: $54. Kids: $29. 435-647-3310.
Hardware Ranch: Moonlight sleigh rides, 18 miles from Hyrum into Blacksmith Fork Canyon. 801-245-3329.
Red Rock Outfitters: Hwy 39 and Causey Way, Southfork (near Huntsville), 801-745-6393.
Solitude Cabin Dinner Sleigh Ride: Delicious dinner at Solitude Cabin and live entertainment. Teton Village, Jackson Hole, Wyo. Reservations are limited, so call well in advance, 307-739-2603.
A Winter’s Feast: Sleigh ride and yurt dining, Ketchum, Idaho, 208-788-7665. i
Forget about holiday shopping—go for retail that will take you through winter in one piece.
By Ben Fulton
The winter months have their own special psychology at work. As sunlight grows increasingly more rationed, people grow increasingly more depressed. At least that’s what the manufacturers of therapeutic sun lamps want us to think. So why not lighten those winter blues with some retail therapy? Sure, you could easily drop $50 at your favorite restaurant. But why not stock up on winter items that really matter—items that actually fit into the mold of anyone’s survival plan until spring turns the corner?
Lip balm. Gotta have it, unless your mouth is made of aloe ointment. And just think of all the stuff that passes your lips: food, words, expletives, the tongue of a wanton lover. These precious, symmetrically matched organs must be in fighting form if they’re to stretch without cracking or pucker without undue pain. The Chapstick of yore, believe it or not, used to come in a tin, twist-it-up cylinder. Today’s variety of choices boggles the mind. Vitamin E? Petroleum free? There’s even an array of SPF numbers to gauge the amount of sunscreen you need. You’re no doubt smart enough to choose your own brand and flavor. But whatever you buy, we suggest you buy three: one for the bathroom, one for the car’s glove compartment, and another for the coat pocket.
Fondue set. This was a staple at every shag-carpeted home of the ’70s. Now, along with the lava lamp, it’s making a comeback. And according to newly discovered journals by some of the Donner Party, they wouldn’t have minded having a set or two on hand during those all-too-human buffets. All you really need is a can of Sterno, a pot, some skewers, plus some basic cooking know-how. This apres-ski artifact has moved beyond the basic cheese, chocolate and fry mode, though. How about Vietnamese beef fondue with rice vinegar stock and anchovy-pineapple sauce? For a full tour of how fondue has finally gone modern, check out Eva and Ulrich Klever’s Fondues From Around the World: Nearly 200 Recipes for Fish, Cheese and Meat Fondues, Oriental Hot Pots, Tempura, Sukiyaki, and Dessert Fondues.
Sno-cone flavors. Continuing on in a culinary tone, you can always put a cap on that fondue with some nifty Sno-cone flavors for the kids. Unlike adults, who usually go for something cold in the summer and hot in the winter, most kids are oblivious to these distinctions. As long as it’s sweet, they stand at attention. In the ’70s, most kids were content with adding the usual household orange juice concentrate to a bit of backyard snow. But in this, the eighth year of our nation’s economic expansion, surely you can afford more exotic “shaved ice syrups” along the lines of “Tamarind,” “50/50 Bar,” or “Cotton Candy.”
Car window scraper. So essential, insurance companies ought to give you a rebate from your premium just for having one in the car. Used right, it just might save a life or two on those cold nights when you can barely see out the car window. Important note: Buy one of quality material, and use a firm grip when scraping.
Skin moisturizer. Believe it or not, some people crack, dry and flake more during winter than summer. Try Nivea, the new Curel therapeutic lotion, or just bulk up on your favorite brand at Costco. You can always bequeath any unused portion to the next of kin.
Artificial, quick-lite logs. Y’know, the Duraflames. No more newspapers. No more wheezing into the fireplace. Whoever invented these should get the Nobel Prize. Alternately, you could just light the leftover Sterno from that delicious fondue meal (see above). Just watch the weather forecasts for “no burn” days.
Yellow hunting glasses. Salt Lake City’s winter inversions were the stuff of legend in the ’80s, and they still crop up even today when high and low pressures mix in the valley. We’re talking long, thick-as-gray-tar nights when you can’t even see the sidewalk from a parking lot. Ergo, yellow hunting glasses, especially while driving. And don’t forget to scrape that windshield.
Pre-emptive flu remedies. Three years ago the word was Echinacea, whether pill or aqueous solution. Two years ago the word was raw garlic, preferably cut into pill-size pieces and swallowed with water. Then it was Boiron’s oscillococcinum, a bunch of little medicinal beads